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Back Buzz - October 23, 1998

The Asteroid Cafe, 1605 North 45th Street, Wallingford

As we first approached the Asteroid Cafe I was impressed with the sign outside which says "Pasta and Espresso". On entering the tiny cafe I was further impressed by the long, richly stocked row of wine bottles. So what am I doing in here getting an espresso? I thought to myself. I should be having a lovely meal instead! Ah, well, it was 2:30 in the afternoon, I wasn't hungry, and we were driving to the airport in a little while to pick up Mistah Rick, my Bay Area friend. And then we'd probably have a couple pints of beer somewhere, and then perhaps dinner at Peso's Taco at that moment I really did need a cappuccino instead of a pasta dinner.

The Hem -- er, I mean, Asteroid Cafe was opened in late 1997 by Jason Finn (drummer of the late Presidents of the United States), Walkabouts bassist Michael Wells, and LA musician Marlin Hathaway, who currently runs the place. It's a pleasant cafe with forest green-topped tables, cool jazz playing, and rather pleasing and comforting modern art on the walls. (According to the posted bio of artist Eben Eldridge, his favorite ice cream is Chocolate Malted Crunch, although I hesitate to imagine what exactly that does for his credibility. Eldridge is also a musician, which must be the common theme here.) The walls are painted silverish, the woodwork navy blue, and the ceiling is a dull mauve, resulting in what I would call a "subdued" color scheme. Yes, comforting and subdued are the operative words here.


My double short cappuccino, prepared by an impressively amiable barista, arrived in a nice round generic cream-colored coffee cup. The Asteroid Cafe uses Caffé Vita beans, which is always a good sign. The shots were strong but a bit on the sour side; too many asteroids in the foam belt, perhaps? The milk foam had a "rocky head", a new beer term I just recently discovered. It does describe the foam perfectly: thick, bumpy, rolling like small boulders skating down a shallow slope until they pause at the edge, deciding whether or not they should tumble onto the highway below, bringing about possible death and destruction in their wake. But in this case there were no cars driving across the green-topped table, so the foam chose to stay perched on the coffee cup's rim.

Aside from espresso the Asteroid Cafe also serves pasta, panini, and breakfast items. I'd like to stop back soon and try a Sorrentina Panini with a glass of Villa Puccini, or perhaps some Farfalle con Salmone Affumicato accompanied by a nice Montepulciano, or maybe just start my Sunday with a Tostato Frittata and a double macchiato. The inviting menu definitely inspires poetry, as does the overhead light fixture seemingly inspired by Seattle Center's three atomic neon lights from the 1962 World's Fair.

I didn't observe any major planets orbiting nearby, but the Asteroid is directly across the street from the Green Lantern Tavern, which is a perfect manifestation of the American term "tavern", a true anomaly in a town full of brewpubs and wine bars. And the Green Lantern Tavern is also green -- in fact, as we sat drinking our cappuccinos I watched an old-timer in a green jacket enter the place just as "Satin Doll" was playing on the stereo. As I thought about green satin, I happened to notice both Max and I were wearing green jackets! Was this some sort of strange coincidence, or was it proof we were tumbling through space on a green asteroid instead of Planet Earth? (And why would an asteroid be necessarily green?)


Speaking of asteroids, I'm reminded of an e-mail exchange from a few months ago with my Chicago friend:

DATE: 7/31/98 9:17 PM

Would you mind dropping by to do my dishes for me?

Would you mind telling me how one could turn 40 and still feel the same insecurities of a 14-year-old?

I apologize for my negativity. They say Mercury is in retrograde. I say I have heartburn.

Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch.

DATE: 8/1/98 6:02 PM

When I was young a friend of mine's little brother thought thermometers were supposed to cure you, so he bit into one. Fortunately the mercury fell out onto the floor before he could swallow it. I don't know if it cured him or not. (I think he had a cold -- but it might have been heartburn.)

Speaking in retrospect I'd say don't eat any mercury.

I'm not sure what I'd say if I were speaking in retrograde.

...and speaking of nuclear fission, following is a mildly related exchange from last year with my Bay Area friend:

DATE: 9/10/97 8:33 AM

Today's Dr. Science column was a real gem:

Dear Dr. Science,
Does animal magnetism affect the earth's magnetic field?
-- Naomi T., Chicago

Animal magnetism is made by rubbing a cat's fur backwards. It can also be made by rubbing amber with a cloth, but it very much depends on Amber's mood. In small quantities, the earth's magnetic field is not affected. But if you could somehow put 5,000 cats in a room and rub all their fur backwards simultaneously, the earth would tilt on its axis and fall into the sun. Research indicates the Soviets were working on a magnetic cat bomb. Keeping up, even now, we're planning to send our own cats into space on Kit Kat 12. Scientists in the know think this is at least as practical as that Star Wars deal and will go a long way towards eliminating strays from the neighborhood. Hope this answers your question.

DATE: 9/10 /97 11:32 AM

Are there activists demonstrating against the possible deployment of the cat bomb? Somehow I feel that lining up 5,000 cats in a room and rubbing their fur the wrong way is about as likely to happen as cold fusion.

DATE: 9/10/97 1:18 PM

It would probably have to be 5,000 cats out of the same litter. Or perhaps 5,000 unrelated cats who'd been raised together. big an apartment or house would one have to have in order to keep 5,000 cats? (If they were all house cats, how many litter pans would you need?) And if you have 5,000 cats, how would they all determine who was more dominant than whom? Let's see...with my cats Alex and Malcolm, Alex is the dominant one. Years ago with my cat Phydeaux and her two children, Fritz and Alger, Phydeaux -- although half the size of Alger or Fritz -- was the most dominant, and Alger was the most submissive. So Fritz was dominant to Alger but submissive to Phydeaux.

So in a group of 5,000 cats, would there be a single line of dominance, with perhaps a cat named Killer being the most dominant and a cat named Puffball being the least dominant? Would there be a hierarchical structure of dominance, with Killer being the most dominant of the bunch, cats named Scarface and Terminator being less dominant than Killer but more dominant than the other 4,997 cats, and so on down through a reverse tree?

Or would it be even more complicated than this, with each cat having its own relative dominance and submissiveness to each other cat, completely unrelated to all the other cats and their relative dominant standings? Is there any way each and every single cat in a roomful of 5,000 can interact with every other single cat in the room and establish their relative dominance and submissiveness without creating total chaos?

Can't they all just get along?